EJ plays inspired in Eugene

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ERNEST JOHN “EJ” OBIENA is back in Eugene, Oregon, for Monday’s final of the Wanda Diamond League where he’ll be up against a star-studded field of only seven of the world’s elite pole vaulters led by Swede wonder Armand Duplantis.

He’s inspired to compete in the very same Hayward Field where he clinched a breakthrough bronze medal not only for himself and the Philippines, but for the whole of Asia at last year’s world championships.

“It’s good to be back in Eugene where I won my first medal at the world championships,” Obiena said. “Eugene has a special place in my heart so it would be interesting, but I don’t think the stake is higher or anything, but it’s competition.”

The 27-year-old Obiena’s 5.94 meters at the worlds that gave him bronze last year stood as Asia’s best at that time. But he made 6.0 meters last July in Norway to break his own mark.

Obiena brings with him an extraordinary streak at 5.92m which he did thrice ahead of the Diamond League final where he’ll also square off with Americans Sam Kendricks, Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Christopher Nilsen and KC Lightfoot, Australian Kurtis Marschall and Belgian Ben Broeders.

“I’m up for the challenge, and I don’t go to any competition to become second or third. I want to win,” said Obiena, who arrived in Eugene Thursday. “I’m just happy that a certain guy name Mondo [Obiena] exists so it’s very difficult, but I am up to the challenge. My team agreed to battle it out.”

“I’m happy that I am here…the Diamond League is Diamond League with six other guys jumping. It’s the best very competitive field and looking forward to it,” added Obiena, who flies to Hangzhou to target his first Asian Games gold medal later this month,.

Jim Lafferty, Obiena’s personal adviser, said Obiena carries the country on his shouleders for being the first Filipino to compete in the prestigious Diamond League.

“Being invited to compete in a Diamond League is a huge honor,” Lafferty said. “It’s an elite competition primarily reserved for the top 10 in their respective events. EJ is the first, and only, Filipino to ever compete in there.”

Obiena competed in 23 tournaments so far this season and had podium finishes in 20 of them.

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